Neuronormativity, the pathologisation of Mental health, and the normalising of suffering

In recent years mental health has become more widely talked about, thanks to the popularisation of the “it’s okay not to be okay” trope. On the surface this is a wonderful approach to the normalisation of Mental health issues, but does it have a darker side?

There are currently over 300 “disorders” listed in the DSM 5, the diagnostic manual used by psychiatrists around the world. One could imagine that between them they account for the vast majority of human experience; a concerning thought to say the least.

What benefit does this serve us as a society?

Realistically, it only benefits those who adhere to normative standards.

We’ve been taught that mental health concerns are an illness, that we have a pathology that requires treatment. Despite this, there is no biomedical test that can definitively diagnose any of the numerous entries in the DSM. So perhaps there is something more to the pathologisation of human experience.

Our society is broken, it has fixed rules that apply to fewer and fewer people, while trying harder and harder to assimilate people into it’s normative standards of behaviour. Szasz would argue that this approach serves to provide a sort of social control over us.

So now we live in a society where anyone who doesn’t fit cultural standards of normal is considered “sick” or “ill”.

Thus, we reach a point of starting to understand why “it’s okay not to be okay” might have a darker side to it. Mental health issues (in my opinion) arise from living in an environment that can not fulfill the individuals needs. An environment that consistently traumatises those living in it.

However, we are now normalising human suffering. It’s okay to say “I’m not okay” but we must never normalise human suffering. When we do or say things that uphold the pathology paradigm, we are allowing our oppressive society to continue on its harmful path.

We need to do the work to rebuild society into a brighter place, thar meets the needs of the many, and not just a selected few. We do this by recognising that neurodiversity is about more than Autistic and ADHD experiences.

The change starts with us, and it ends with a brighter future.

It’s never okay to suffer.

Published by David Gray-Hammond

David Gray-Hammond is an autistic mental health and addiction advocate living in the South East of England. He is in recovery from addiction and psychosis, as well as other complex mental health conditions. He was diagnosed as autistic seven months after achieving sobriety, and is resolved to share his experiences with the world in the hopes of being the person that he needed when he was younger.

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